compiled by Ardis Bazyn, ACB Membership Committee Chair
The theme for this summer was Membership 101. The first panel topic was “How to recruit and retain members.” Julie Brannon, president of the Washington Council of the Blind, said networking is our biggest asset. Most members are brought by members. She suggested having a session on how to share the benefits of your affiliate with new or prospective members. It might take time for potential members to understand the perks of being a member. WCB has a list of benefits on their website along with a brochure. Some committees have brochures as well for seniors and families. Pass them on to ophthalmologists in English and Spanish. Inviting participation from special-interest affiliates adds members to the state affiliate. Keep a good relationship with the state Business Enterprise Program and the state rehab training centers. Ask new members to join committees to keep them involved in your chapter and affiliate. Find ways to keep in touch with members.
Matt Selm, president of the Kentucky Council of the Blind, said that involving members in local chapters and special-interest affiliates retains members. To encourage members to renew their membership, ask them to pay dues at the state convention and give them a second opportunity to join at the beginning of the year. They have a newsletter and monthly news radio channel which podcasts the news. They send phone reminders for all events. There is a presidents’ meeting where members can give feedback. KCB offers life membership at an affordable cost. They encourage members to participate in this option.
Danette Dixon, first vice president of ACB Diabetics in Action, uses community calls for many of their events to reach more people. They have special speakers of interest to those with pre-diabetes or diabetes. ACBDA gives support, information, and what diabetics need to learn. They hold fundraisers of interest shared on the community call list as well. Danette shared how this affiliate helped her when she became a diabetic.
We also discussed how to reach people in rural areas. Speakers mentioned that hybrid meetings help. Zoom meetings and conference calls are a good option for more rural areas or even areas in a city not near another chapter. Members at large should have regular meetings to learn what is happening in an affiliate. Share any announcements about your chapter meetings or other events on your website and on email lists as well as social media. Have mentoring sessions as well as special monthly calls on books, technology and other topics. It helps to have a membership coordinator in each chapter. WCB has a CARES program with a sunshine committee and encourages involvement.
The second panel focused on “How to give the best orientation to new members.” Gabriel Lopez Kafati, president of Blind LGBT Pride International, said they invite new members to join their WhatsApp group. They contact new members immediately to ask about their interests. They acknowledge them at the next meeting. They encourage member participation in board meetings. They teach them about what the organization is doing. They invite new members to participate in committees and convention meetings to get new people excited. State conventions are also a good way to nourish and welcome new members. They mentor members into leadership positions.
Amanda Selm, president of ACB Next Generation, said they have a membership orientation guide. Their mission and vision are on their website as well as the home for all their activities. On the website, anyone can find their constitution, the “about the organization” page, committees, events, and benefits. They let members know they appreciate them. One membership perk is helping members create an elevator pitch, customizing them to fit each person. They have a diverse board and build relationships to learn members’ needs. They ask what each person has as their goals and objectives. They have a formal orientation at convention where they discuss the group’s committees, history, etc.
Michael Garrett, vice president and membership chair for ACB of Texas, said they provide informative calls on a regular basis. They explain what benefits are. Members often remain members if they have received information which tells what the organization’s history is, what advocacy the organization has provided, and what ways they can participate in the future.
Speakers then answered question about using social media. Social media can be used for a members-only group on Facebook. Next Gen is part of Messenger. Next Gen also has a neighborhood Facebook page, and uses recognition to tag people on Facebook. They use Clubhouse to hold spur-of-the-moment socials. She suggested affiliates include a link to their website on all social media. Search for people who know how to use social media to assist your affiliate.
This year’s Affiliate Growth Award for the largest percentage of growth was awarded to the D.C. Council of the Blind, which grew 469.56 percent. The Affiliate Growth Award for the largest number of new members went to Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America, which had 125 new members. Watch for upcoming ACB “Membership Focus” calls.